Things Someone Should Have Told Me

This is not my blog, but I feel that it should be read by as many people as possible, because it shows, indeed highlights much of what we as mental health advocates see happening in our own CMHT. Tom has hit the nail on the head with what he says here.

Go With That

I started seeing my first community mental health clients three years ago. On the day that I met my first clients at my internship, I was immediately aware that no part of my graduate education (or my life) prepared me to work with clients this unwell. My fellow interns were similarly shocked. My internship was an exercise in endurance. I survived, but the way I survived cost me something. Despite the fact that several prior generations of therapist have made this journey, I struggled to find resources to help me make sense of what I was seeing and experiencing. Is it this severe everywhere? When will I start to feel like I know what I’m doing? Wait, what am I doing? How can my clients get better? Is “better” even the right word? I feel like I am going crazy… is this normal? I resolved that if I ever found…

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The Spider and Depression

 

spider-plugholeEarlier this evening I found a spider in my kitchen sink, so I caught the spider and put it on a bush outside.  The following blog is a very short blog of the thoughts, which that spider prompted.

When a spider is trapped in a sink it can only go round and round, it cannot climb the walls because they are too steep and shiny.  All it can do is keep on going round and round, until it is exhausted.  It is the same when you have depression, this time the walls of your depression are too steep and shiny to climb, and all you can do is keep going round and round in your head until you too, are exhausted.  In the end, both the spider and the person who has depression are so desperate, that they will do anything to escape.  The only way out for the spider is to follow the water down the plughole, and the person who has depression can feel that their only option is to follow their feelings down a metaphorical plughole.  Both of these escape routes can lead to the possible demise of the spider, and the person who has depression.

The outlook for the spider is pretty grim.  Fortunately, for those who have depression or any other mental illness things do not have to get as bleak as the scenario painted above; there is help available.  Your first port of call should be your GP or Family Doctor; they are the gateway to specialist treatment and therapy.  If you have any problems in getting a diagnosis or treatment, contact your local Mind and ask them, what Mental Health Advocacy Services are available in your area?  You will be able to find your local Mind contact details by clicking on the following link Mind in your area.

There are also numerous helplines and text services that offer help; the following list gives just a few of those available in the UK:

Sane Mental Health Helpline national helpline open 365 days a year from 6 pm to 11 pm: 0300 304 7000 for those over 16

Sane Textcare for those over 16

Samaritans 24 hour helpline 116 123

SupportLine Telephone Helpline 01708 765200 –email info@supportline.org.uk

Confidential emotional support to Children Young People and Adults

Association for Post Natal Illness on 020 7386 0868 Website www.apni.org

Calmzone: National 0800 585858 – London 0808 802 5858 www.thecalmzone.net

Campaign Against Living Miserably. Help and support for young men aged 15-35 on issues, which include depression and suicide

Childline:  0800 1111 (24 hours)

www.childline.org.uk | online chat | message boards

Childline is the UK’s free helpline for children and young people. It provides confidential telephone counselling service for any child with a problem. It comforts, advises and protects

LGBT Foundation A charity offering mental health services and resources to the gay community: this includes a national support helpline.

Helpline: 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am until 10pm Monday to Friday, and 10am until 6pm Saturday

Email: helpline@lgbt.foundation support within 72 hours

Chris Rugg

28th September 2016

Posted in Depression, Desperation, Escape, Exhaustion, Fatigue, Mental Health, Mental Health Advocacy, mental illness, Plughole, Rehabilitation, Spider | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A cry for help?

 

When someone tries to take his or her life, and for some reason, whatever reason, is unsuccessful.  It is a traumatic experience not only for them, but also for their family and friends when they realise that they so nearly lost someone who they love, respect and need; most will rally round, and try to give whatever support and care is needed to bring their loved one back to their old self.  But not all, when someone decides that suicide is their only option, they may have already sought help from everyone they love and trust; partners, wives, husbands, siblings, close friends, doctors etc. etc.  Sadly, (in a few cases) they find that some of these ‘trusted’ people, superficial friends, are not interested, or will come up with trite sentiments such as ‘Come on get a life, you’ve got so much to live for’ or ‘I didn’t realise you were having problems, come on let’s get drunk’.  By now, they have probably tried every avenue available; often including drink or drugs, and they can be so desperate that they see suicide as the only option.  If a person really wants to live, they are not going to risk their life by taking an overdose of drugs, or threatening to throw themselves off a high building, because they may well kill themselves by accident.  So usually, when someone attempts suicide it is a deliberate attempt to take his or her life – not ‘A cry for help’.

After someone has tried to take their life and not succeeded, there can be the slow realisation that they are still alive when they should be dead.  There is no Eureka moment where they jump with joy; instead, there is a feeling of abject failure because they could not use that one last power they thought they had; the ability to take their own life away.

I work as a mental health advocate for Bridging the Gap at Mind in Taunton & West Somerset, and in the course of my work, I meet quite a few survivors of suicide, as clients, telephone callers or drop-ins.  I have also talked with four people by telephone as they were attempting to take their lives, they all called to say what they were doing and why they were doing it, two of them said how they felt the services had let them down.  I remember one lady in particular, who had called from out of county, and lived in a remote moorland cottage.  She had just started taking a mixture of Diazepam and Morphine, and was taking them while we were talking.  I asked her the usual questions name, address, and telephone number, she then went on to tell me why she was doing what she was doing.  By this time, I had asked a colleague to dial 999 and to get the police and an ambulance there as quickly as possible.  Back to the caller, when I asked if she had considered her local Crisis Team, she left me in no doubt as to what she thought of them and went on to explain that she had had a bad experience with them, and did not feel able to trust them anymore.  We carried on talking until I spoke to one of the paramedics one hour and twenty minutes later, by which time the lady was barely conscious.  Just so, you know, I checked with her hospital the next day and was very pleased to hear that she had survived.  My thoughts now are; if there had been a Suicide Crisis Centre in her county, she could possibly have avoided going through this awful experience.

Why am I writing this now?

Recently Joy Hibbins the founder of Suicide Crisis in Cheltenham, Gloucester has written a blog called “Please Don’t Call Us ‘Difficult to Engage’” in which she describes not only her own experience of statutory services and why they are not always able to give the support needed, but also gives the reasons why she has set up Suicide Crisis.  She has also written an article for The Independent, which tells us how Suicide Crisis has developed since she set it up.  After reading both her blog and the article, and comparing the experience of my own clients and callers, I came to realise how much we need a Suicide Crisis Centre in Somerset.

Chris Rugg

31st July 2016

Here are some links, which you may find useful if you need to talk, or have been affected by the suicide of someone close to you:

Mindline Somerset 01823 276 892 8pm till 11pm – Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat & Sunday

Mindline South Devon and Torbay 0300 330 5464 8pm till 11pm – Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat & Sunday

Somerset Suicide Bereavement Support

Helpline open 24 hours a day

 0300 330 5463

 bereaved@mindtws.org.uk 

We run a monthly Suicide Bereavement peer support group, click here to find out more.

Somerset Suicide Bereavement Support Service is available to anyone bereaved by suicide in Somerset.

Read more about us and what we do

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Shall I; shan’t I

sardinesShall I; shan’t I, were the words going through my head as I stood in front of the tinned sardines in tomato sauce? I was doing my weekly shop at the local supermarket, and by pure accident, I was walking past the shelves stacked with tinned sardines. There were all sorts there: sardines in olive oil, sardines in brine, sardines with lemon, grilled sardines; in fact sardines in or with whatever you fancied. However, the only ones I could not take my eyes off were the sardines in tomato sauce.

Why this dilemma you may well ask. I am a vegetarian and I do not eat meat or any food derived from living creatures, I find even the smell of raw meat repulsive, yet for some reason I do like fish. I will freely admit to buying salmon and prawn pie, smoked haddock and prawns in the past, but my excuse for this is that they were impulse buys, and they were all screaming “EAT ME!” at me. I therefore did not feel too guilty when I eat and enjoyed them.

The root of this quandary was a conversation in the office when we were talking about food that we used to enjoy, but had not had for a long time. Someone mentioned sardines in tomato sauce on toast, as soon as it was mentioned it my mouth started to water, it was also something I used to love, but had totally forgotten. I even said, “I’ll get some on the way home”, and then I remembered that I am a vegetarian, “Damn!”

I have been tempted to buy some sardines ever since that conversation. The dilemma was caused because this time there was no rush of blood to my head leading to an impulse buy. This would be pre-planned purchase. Eventually, I said, “Shall” and bought the damned sardines. They were delicious, on toast with loads of butter and light sprinkling of Black Pepper. Do I feel guilty – will I buy them again? Yes to both, I think I can live with the guilt.

 

 

 

 

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Roly-Poly Hill

badger

badger (Photo credit: megankhines)

Last year, I visited a friend at their new house; as soon as I arrived, there was a feeling of familiarity, a sense of déjà vu, not for the house, but the place – the area: even though I had never been to that house or street in my life.  Later that evening while sat, as usual, in front of my computer in suddenly dawned on me – it was “Roly-Poly”!  Roly-Poly Hill to give it its full name; a place where I, with many other local children had spent countless hours playing and exploring; among other things we used to go to the top of the hill, lie on our sides then roll to the bottom through grass, mud and cow-pats.  Getting ourselves disgustingly filthy and smelly, it really was fantastic fun.  Of course, our parents, phandwasharticularly our mums did not enjoy it at all.  They had to wash not only us, but hand wash our clothes as well; this was in the days (the 1950’s) when washing machines were a status symbol not easily afforded by working class families, and mums were expected to do all the dirty work.

Roly-Poly was a perfect natural playground, it had everything a young child  of six or seven needed to amuse themselves; there was a wood with a badger’s sett and bluebells, a steep hill which doubled as a toboggan run in the winter, and a river with a lovely muddy cattle-drink. The bank of the river had Alders and Hazels growing through a thick undergrowth of brambles along most of its edge.  The brambles were laced with tunnels and ‘secret’ hiding places made by wildlife and children.  During spring and early summer, the brambles would be full of a varied selection of birds’ nests: Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Wrens, Robins and Nuthatches to name but a few.  In the river, there was a large fallen Alder; it must have been there many years because the bank on the far side had been undercut by the river as it flowed around the tree.  The tree although fallen was very much alive, in summer its branches formed a mini-forest which appeared to be growing from the surface of the river.

The wood too was a fascinating place; it had a very old oak tree, which at its foot had the badger’s sett going through its roots.  Sometimes late in the evening in the summer the badgers would come out and start snuffling around.  It was a deciduous wood with one lone conifer, a Japanese cedar, perhaps an escapee from an ornamental garden, on its edge; in winter, the needles would turn from bluish green to very deep red, then back to bluish green in the spring.  The wood was also the home for at least one pair of Green Woodpeckers, who could be heard hammering away at the trees for much of the day, and Rooks had colonised the treetops with a very large rookery; they never seemed to stop caw cawing.

Sadly Roly-Poly is no more, the steep hill is now a shallow incline the woods and the badgers have gone, though the oak tree remains.  The riverbank has been cleared, and the river straightened.  The landscape now looks very sterile and lifeless, with pavements, tarmac, lampposts and lines of identical houses.

Seeing Roly-Poly as it is now, set me to thinking of some of the other places where I used to play and explore as a child.  Places like Pig’s Loose Lane, Ram’s Horn Bridge and sw otterArcher’s Island – where I saw both my first otter and first lamprey, I remember how excited I was when I saw the otter; I still get that same thrill now whenever I am lucky enough to see one.  The lamprey was fascinating: a long eel-like fish, with what seemed like a continuous fin running down its back and right around its tail.  It had noLamprey jaws, instead of a conventional mouth it had a circular sucker, a pad with minute teeth; as it swam upstream it would stop every two or three feet and appear to rest by using its sucker to attach itself to a convenient stone, so that it would not be swept back downstream by the current.  Archer’s Island was a rather grandiose name for the island, which was just a bank of gravel and grit; it was however, still an island…

Ram's Horn BridgeRam’s Horn Bridge is still there, it is now almost hidden by trees and bushes, and it is where the ford joined Hovelands Lane to Hovelands Hill, about fifty yards or so to the East of Galmington Bridge.  I have since learned that it was a packhorse bridge, and dates back to the 16th Century or earlier.  The ford was and maybe still is a good place to catch Bullheads and Stone Loaches.  Not far from the bridge there was an orchard, it had some of the best tasting and juiciest apples I have ever tasted.  I do not know what sort they were but they were about the size of a tennis ball, and pale green with a pinkish tinge round the top.  The orchard has gone, and in its place, we have a launderette, a fish and chip shop, a hairdresser’s and Galmington Road; hardly a fair exchange for those delicious apples.

Pig’s Loose Lane is halfway down Netherclay Hill on the left-hand side going from Bishop’s Hull to Silk Mills; the lane is in fact a footpath, which runs along the wall of Netherclay House on the edge of a small orchard that was used to raise free-range pigs, hence the name Pig’s Loose Lane.  Just past the orchard – there is a forked junction, to the right there is a narrow bridge over the River Tone. The bridge leads to a footpath to the original silk mill; I am pleased to say that otters can again be seen in the feeder stream to the mill.  Straight on leads down past what were the vegetable gardens and orchard for Netherclay House; they were behind a large hedge that was covered in wild honeysuckle and Old Man’s Beard, during the summer the scent of the honeysuckle was so strong that it pleasantly masked the smell of the pigs.  Pig’s Loose Lane ended at an open field, but the footpath carried on to Fideoake and Freethy passing Archer’s Island on the way. K Gate To ensure that the pigs could not wander away from the orchard there were three kissing-gates on Pig’s Loose Lane; one at each end and one at the bridge, the gate onto the road was wooden, the other two were iron.

I have tried not to use rose-coloured spectacles when writing this – if I have done so here and there – please forgive me; remember these memories are nearly fifty years old and it comes as quite a shock to see how much things have changed. The places may have changed, but in my mind, I will always remember them as they were…

The Photograph of Ram’s Horn Bridge is from www.tauntonian.com

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A lesson learned…

DepressionFor some months, maybe more, my mental health had been declining very rapidly, though I did not notice it at the time, I believed the “Happy Face” mask that I religiously put on every morning for the rest of the World.  I had been putting that face on for so many years; it became part of my daily routine, just like brushing my teeth or taking a shower.  However, each day I would go to work and take on other people’s problems without even realising that I had my own problems.

Just before Christmas I had finally managed to give up anti-depressants, I had been taking them for ages, from my teens in fact, and I am quite ancient now.  I did at least have the sense to do it by gradual dose reduction, although I did not tell my Doctor what I had done until last week, three months after I had taken my last anti-depressant.  During the decline I put my feelings and sometimes-extreme fatigue down to the short days of winter, not going out enough, going out too much, reading too much, not getting enough sleep, sleeping too much, in fact anything to avoid the truth. 

The truth being that I was slap bang in the middle of another episode of depression brought about by overworking, taking on too much, not delegating, a host of other things, and unhealthiest of all – not leaving the Advocacy Partners problems in the filing cabinet when I left work.  On top of all that, there was the tension caused by office politics. Of course, all of this is said with the wisdom of hindsight.  I just could not see it at the time, others may well have done, but I did not.

Then on Wednesday the 16th of January, I had what turns out to have been a very lucky, possibly lifesaving, accident; I had a fall and fractured my femur and hip, those of you who have read my two previous blogs will already know this.  You may well be asking how an accident, which immobilised me and put me in hospital for a month can be considered as lucky.  The answer is that it put a very large full stop on my working life.  Understandably, at the time I did not consider myself lucky all I could think about were the appointments I would miss, the meetings I could not attend and my Advocacy Partners, I still could not turn my brain off.  For the first couple of weeks I was still wearing my mask, except on the day of my operation where I was on an anaesthetic high, and did not have a care in the World.

Gradually things eased, and I realised that I would not be going back to work in the near future, and that I had to concentrate on getting better, meaning recuperating from the results of my fracture, not my poor mental health.  My recuperation for that came as a side effect of my physical recuperation.  I was and am concentrating so hard on that, that I pushed all thoughts of work from my mind.  Effectively giving my mind something else to think about, thereby giving it a much-needed rest.

I then transferred to Dene Barton Hospital where the physiotherapy was much more intense, the Physiotherapist was much keener than the one in my first hospital.  On top of that, I now had an Occupational Therapist; this was the real turning point in both my physical and mental health recovery.  They both radiated enthusiasm, which was contagious; they both really wanted and want me to get better.  Two weeks later, I was discharged; even though I was now at home the therapy continues by way of home visits.  I even get someone to help me with the transition from crutches to sticks; you could say that she takes me for ‘walkies’.

All the time that I had been concentrating on regaining the use of my leg; I was unknowingly improving my mental health; it was not until last Wednesday that I finally realised that I had had depression: an Advocacy Partner rang me to ask for help.  She was desperate; I had known her for almost a year and knew both her and her case well, I also knew that she would never have called me unless she had no other choice.  Therefore, I agreed that I would try to help her.  I then called the agency, which was causing the problem, and one other agency that may have been able to help.  As I was talking to these agencies I could feel my brain beginning to ‘knot-up’, I could also feel the tension building throughout my body.  These were feelings and sensations that I had not felt since before the accident.  Before the accident I had grown to accept those feelings as normal, whereas now I know that they are not normal, they are a symptom or warning that something is very wrong.  I resolved the Advocacy Partner’s issue and then tactfully explained to her that I would be unable to help her again until I was back at work.

Later on in the afternoon I rang my line-manager, explained what had happened and said that I would not being doing that again, that I would wait until I was back at work, and fully recovered before starting to try to help my Advocacy Partners.  I must also make it clear that my line-manager did not ask me to do what I did; it was my decision, albeit the wrong one.

I am not going to make any changes to the routine, which I adopted when I was discharged from hospital, that routine is working on both fronts, mental and physical.  Plus the fact that on top of the routine, I am doing things which I never had time for when I was working, things, such as reading though the mountain of ‘must’ read books, using my camera again, writing, and probably most important of all meditation, which I think is a major factor in my gradual recovery from depression.  One thing I definitely will not be doing is resorting to anti-depressants again.

There are many thousands of people with all sorts of mental illnesses, who do not know that there is something wrong.  I have been very lucky to have had the opportunity to recognise mine, and to do something about it.

 

 

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Becoming Independent Again

I have recently been discharged from hospital after breaking my hip and femur.  A day, which I had been longing for; however, the discharge came with conditions such as having physiotherapy at home, visits from my Occupational Therapist, scans and X-Rays, blood tests, seeing my Doctor more in the last two weeks than I have seen her in the last two years and having a carer.

MM900283638

Very few things are as humbling as having to have a carer.  It is a time when you must admit to yourself that you can no longer cook your own meals, take a shower, make the bed or even dress without help and someone there to make sure that you that you do not fall or hurt yourself.  For me it has also been a very positive experience, I am fortunate enough to know that with grit and determination that I can become independent again, I am one of the lucky ones; there are many more discharged from hospital after an accident or severe illness that will never be able to be independent again.

I live alone, and enjoy living alone; it came as very strange experience when I had to let a stranger into my home twice a day to take care of me.  The carers are very cheerful pleasant people; they are understanding and possess that most important gift: the one of empathy.  Although, there is one that is not quite as understanding and as empathic as she could be; but she is the exception rather than the rule.

Immediately after my discharge, my day would begin with my carer arriving at about eight-thirty in the morning.  However, because it takes me a long time to get moving I get up at about seven-thirty so that I am reasonably mobile when the carer arrives.  The carer would then help me with my shower, make the bed, prepare my lunch, make sure that I had breakfast, make me a cup of tea, have a chat and if my waste bin was full, take the rubbish out.  The chat was and is very important; it helps to maintain my need for communication with the outside world.  That said, I have some very good friends who either visit or meet me for a coffee or a pint; they may not realise it, but their friendship is a major factor and driving force in my recovery process.  I count myself as very lucky to have such good friends!

In the evening my carer would return and prepare my evening meal and check on how I was, I no longer have an evening carer I prepare my own meals, to be honest I was fed up with microwave meals and scrambled egg on toast.  The time in between my carers visits, or as it is now, after my carers visit, is not empty time, far from it.  I have a whole series of exercises to do throughout the day; these are mainly to help me regain the flexibility and strength in my leg, I must also go for increasingly longer walks each day, now with crutches, later with sticks.  Since the operation, I have had Oedema in my right leg; that is why I wear a slipper on my right foot.  In the morning, I go for a walk, after which, I must sit down with my foot up for two hours to reduce the swelling, which can be painful.  In the afternoon, I again have to sit down with my foot up for one hour, after a shorter walk plus exercises.  It may sound boring to you, to have to keep doing the same thing each day; but it is far from it.  I can see and feel the progress I am making, because I walk a little further a little faster, my leg is getting stronger and suppler, therefore each day I achieve a little more, knowing this, almost forces me to try harder.  I know now that I will become independent again, sooner rather than later: even though my recovery has, been hindered by an infection in my leg, the infection is now slowly disappearing.

Because of the exercises and walking there have been several major achievements such as; preparing and cooking my own meals from scratch, putting my socks on without help, having enough confidence to shower and even changing my bed, although I must admit this was very painful, and I had to take a break halfway through.  It is strange that such mundane tasks and actions can become so important.

There is an old adage, which says, “There is no gain without pain”, and this very true as far as my rehabilitation goes.  So far, I have graduated downwards from, near agony – to incredible pain – to severe pain, my next level is pain followed by ache et al, until there is no pain at all.  All I will have to deal with then will be having one leg shorter than the other, regaining the ability to drive my car and phasing back into work.  Then Bingo, I am there!

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